The prying government

The revelation last week that the National Security Administration has the cellphone records of millions of Americans was downright scary.

Big Brother is not only watching – if he wants to, he can also listen.

Relax, said politicians from both parties. “This is nothing new,” said Sen. Harry Reid. “It has been going on for seven years.”

Really, senator? The fact that this abuse of privacy has been going on for a long time is supposed to comfort us?

Sen. Lindsay Graham said he “doesn’t mind at all” if the government has his cellphone number and associated records. Don’t worry, we were assured, those records are only checked if the number of a terrorist or terrorist group needs to be cross-referenced against your phone records. Well, maybe for now that’s how it works.

But what happens when some shrewd political operative has access to those records and decides to run a cross-reference against the number of an opposition group? The data is there, waiting to be mined. Maybe today’s data miners have the purest of hearts – but what about tomorrow’s?

History teaches us that when there is an opportunity for abuse, it will occur. Sooner or later, some bright politico will point out the treasure trove of data residing in NSA’s computers, and it will be used for nefarious purposes.

We have a government of limited powers for a reason. The feds are not supposed to have more powers than the Constitution grants them. When secret courts are granting government widespread access to private records, it is time to rein them – and the people seeking such access – in.

To many people, the assertion that such power will be abused probably sounds like paranoia. But, as the late Jack Paar so succinctly put it:

“Even paranoid people can have enemies.”

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.